Basically, the premise is as follows:
There’s a price tag that’s being hidden from us everyday. Not the one that tells us how much money to pay but the underlying costs of every outfit’s life cycle. Uncover the lives that our clothes led before they got to the store and discover your voting power as a consumer towards a fairer, healthier and more sustainable planet.
Awesome! :) There's just one catch.
Have you seen this article, Ethical branding: Fairtrade laid bare?
I will quote some of the article.
The US retailer Victoria’s Secret sells fantasy with its line of slinky thongs. It’s not just sex the brand is promoting, but also the belief that consumers can do good by buying products made in socially responsible workplaces in the emerging world.
But then last December, Bloomberg News ran a scathing exposé purporting to show that Bonn-based Fairtrade International (FLO),the world’s largest labeller of ethical goods, had failed dismally in its oversight of a project in west Africa that supplies Limited Brands-owned Victoria’s Secret. “Paying lucrative premiums for organic and fair trade cotton has – perversely – created fresh incentives for exploitation,” wrote Bloomberg’s Cam Simpson.
According to Simpson, the project that made some Victoria’s Secret garments was paying sub-par wages to children labouring in inhumane conditions.
Oops! I think your lacy slip is showing.
In January, FLO responded to the investigation, claiming Bloomberg’s reporter had fabricated key elements of the story. The young girl profiled, they said, was not 13 but 18, and worked not on a Fairtrade-certified cotton farm but in her family’s vegetable business. The facts remain in dispute. But as the story heated up, it was announced that FLO’s chief executive, Rob Cameron, had resigned, although FLO stated it had nothing to do with the Bloomberg allegations.
The contretemps is emblematic of a growing controversy that threatens to upend the burgeoning ethical consumer market: child labour is a persistent, global problem and there are no easy fixes.
Imagine! So ... this isn't just isolated to a few terrible companies, but may be endemic throughout the industry? Maybe.
It’s a battle royale between the self-proclaimed reformists and old guard purists, who are afraid the movement will be coopted and the label reduced to little more than a corporate rubber stamp. FLO agrees that sales would rise under the rival system, but would water down worker protections. It says the changes suggested by Fairtrade USA amount to an assault against the movement’s founding values – the focus on small farms, self-management and sustainability.
The Fair Trade USA proposals are a “neoliberalisation of Fair Trade,” writes Francisco VanDerhoff Boersma, co-founder of the first fair trade certifying body in a joint response to the plans issued with the renowned small farmer co-operative UCIRI (Union of Indigenous Communities of the Region of Isthmus) in Mexico. “Our small producer organisations can only move forward with authentic fair trade and sustainable or organic production.”
“Do we want it to be small and pure or do we want it to be fair trade for all,” responds Paul Rice, chief executive of Fair Trade USA. He believes the move is “visionary,” saying it will bring benefits to the “poorest of the poor.”
So who’s right? That’s a tough call. There is no question that fair trade label rivalry will dilute the movement’s message. Consumers, particularly those in the US, who want to support small, sustainable farms, will be out of luck.
So ... what will these labels mean exactly? Now, I'm completely confused.
The new label would open the door for game-changing giants such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Starbucks to follow suit. Starbucks says it has not yet decided whether it will put fair trade labels on its larger, organic farms.
Well, good for them.
The good news is that such fractiousness suggests the movement is going through growing pains as demand for organic products rises. Fair trade labels should be seen as a symbol of that healthy growth, but not a certification of ethics. No person or product certification system can provide a guarantee that any product is free of child labour. But either labelling system is far better than nothing.
I'm lost for words.